Mike LangGrilling, Turkey

Grilled Thanksgiving Turkey Tips and Recipes

Mike LangGrilling, Turkey
Grilled Thanksgiving Turkey Tips and Recipes

I've been grilling turkeys for Thanksgiving for as long as I've had a grill, which means two decades are almost in my rear view mirror. Like most things, once entrenched, I’m wide eye incredulous hearing a dissent. What do you mean you don't grill your turkey?

There should probably be a Venn diagram about grilling a turkey. Perhaps, something like this:

Owns a Grill.png

For big holiday dinners, it is a daunting process to consider not only spending a lot of money on a good bird but jumping not only outside your norms but literally, outside. Holidays are unique, as they only come around once a year. We want them perfect, and we want the memories of them to last. And by memories, I mean the good ones.

This Thanksgiving, as usual, I've done all of my grilling ahead of time for projects. Luckily for me, this means once Thanksgiving comes around, I get to enjoy a great dinner with family without a whole lot of work. It should be noted, I don't consider enjoy good beer work.

If you are planning to take your turkey outside for the first time, here are a few tips and some of my latest turkey-centric picture and posts for Weber.

The Rotisserie

When it comes down to it, my favorite turkeys have always been on the rotisserie, and I've been spinning my birds for as long as I've had a grill.

A turkey can be seasoned with only salt and pepper, placed on a rotisserie and still taste better than a ten spice rubbed bird subjected to the oven. The self-basting magic of the rotisserie never fails, which explains why spit open fire cooking has been around for thousands of years. It's literal magic.

Weber Post: How to Rotisserie a Turkey

Tip: Consider a double truss. 20 pounds is the max for the rotisserie, and still, that's a lot of wobbling. I traditionally truss from the legs forward while cutting off the wing tips, but for a roto-turkey, I also take butcher twine around the wings over the breast to make sure the spinning doesn't knock the wings free. A tight truss may work, but the second truss takes away the worry. Dinner should be full of expectation, not worry.

The Spatchcock

While not a Weber post from this year, it's a perennial favorite and a close second to the rotisserie on Mike's Favorite Grilled Turkey Methods List. Spatchcocking is the process of removing the backbone of the bird to grill it flat. The method reduces time on the grill and promotes even cooking. I find it easier than grilling a whole bird, even though it sounds harder to pull off. It's not.

APP Post: How to Spatchcock a Turkey

Tip: Practice on a chicken. The same process holds for our smaller poultry friends. While it's admirable to go all-in Thanksgiving day, a little practice never hurts. Ask my friend the knife thrower. Just kidding...we don't talk about that anymore.

In all seriousness, a chicken, no matter the Thanksgiving feast plan, is a great trial run meal. Give it a shot.

Grilling on Gas

I know...I mention grilling and gas in the same sentence, and a large part of our closeknit grilling community clutches their chest and looks to the sky. I do not get bent out of shape debating the pros and cons of gas and charcoal grilling. I just want people to grill, even if it's on a wooden spit over a pile of charcoal.

While a lot of people grill, a lot of people grill on gas and this same group is capable of grilling some excellent turkey.

Grilled Turkey on Roasting Rack with iGrill2 on Summit Gas

This year, there were two great Jamie Purviance recipes I photographed and blogged. One was a brined full turkey and the other a turkey breast. Both were on gas, and both were fantastic. If you have a gas grill and are thinking, ehhh, that's not for a turkey, you are wrong. It so very is.

Spirit II light with Turkey at night

Tip: There are two things you need to prepare for when grilling on gas. The first is space. Turkey is grilled indirect, which calls for no heat beneath the bird. At the minimum, you will need a three burner grill. For a 12-14 pound turkey, this isn't a problem. However, the bigger you go, space may be an issue. To check, place the uncooked turkey on the grill to judge space. It's eaiser to do this when picking the turkey up versus going to set it on the grates the day of. Plan ahead.

Second, with limited hood space, parts of the turkey will be prone to faster browning. To avoid an unintentional blackened turkey, be ready to tent the breast and legs with aluminum foil. The turkey will continue to cook, and the foil with deflect additional heat off of the skin. We want our turkey to taste great AND look good. This goes a long way to help.

Weber Post: Barbecue and Brined Turkey

Weber Post: How to Grill a Whole Turkey Breast

Last Tip: Cook to temperature. Use a timer to get in the ballpark, but the temperature probe is key. 160° to 165° F in the breast. Make the mark and you are golden.

Finally, for a side, I recommend my planked mashed sweet potatoes. As I wrote, they fall squarely between side and dessert. I think it's mostly the bourbon.

Cheers to another happy and filling Thanksgiving. If you have been on the fence taking your turkey outside, I hope this has pushed you over the edge. Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving.

Note: My Weber work is compensated.